Well, we have a couple of days left in this year 2014, then it’s on to the next one.
Someone once told me that they did not get this whole celebration of the New Year thing. One day turned into another day, the old calendar was dumped in the trash and the new calendar was hung up on the refrigerator and it was a new year. Big deal. Who cares?
I disagreed then, and I disagree now.
I think that the marker and the milepost that is New Year’s Eve and the resultant blank slate of a fresh new temporal canvas are both very important to us. We can let go of the bad, the mistakes, the regrets, and the clouds of the past year. Then, we can say hello, wave, and acknowledge the entrance of a bright, shiny new 365-day stretch of possibilities and opportunities.
At 12:01 AM on 1-1-15, your canvas will be blank. You may paint on it anything you wish. You may choose bright colors and bold lines and a year of dazzling discovery, or you may choose broad brushstrokes of gray and brown and black, each bleeding into the other to cover the medium from top to bottom with mundane, uniform, depressing muck.
It’s your choice.
One thing I do not like and do not participate in is the public declaration of New Year’s resolutions. I think they are artificial, short-lived, feel-good bandaids for full-thickness burns. We make them, we don’t keep them, and we think we have done our duty to the New Year to do so.
What I will do this year, and I invite you to do too, is to engage in a very pleasant gift-giving to myself, the act of New Years restitution.
What is that, you might ask?
Restitution is 1) the restoration of something lost to its rightful owner, or 2) the restoration of something to its original state.
I have a very good life, I think, but there are many things that I have let slip, consciously or not. I need to make a very active effort this year to restore those things, to give back to myself those things that I need to be active, productive and happy to the best of my ability.
After all, I know (and you do too) that nobody else is going to do that for me. I make the effort, I set the priorities, I do the work, or it just ain’t happening. Simple as that.
Things that I will pay myself back or restore this coming year:
Sleep. We need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. That’s just about a given, no matter where you look it up or how you slice it. I have always deluded myself into thinking that because I went to medical school and work hard and am always on the go, that I do not not need that like all other humans. I have always gotten by on four and a half to six hours sleep and why should that change now? Because it’s not healthy, that’s why. Lack of adequate sleep negatively affects alertness, cognition, eating patterns and weight gain, energy, hormonal balance, stamina, sex drive and mood. Bottom line? Sleep more, live longer, feel better, enjoy your life. My target for average sleep per night this year? Seven hours. Why not nine? I’m a realist. I’ll start with seven.
Quiet time. My job involves talking to people. Lots of people. All day, and sometimes half the night. Up to sixteen hours per day of talking and listening to others talk to me. Then what do I do on top of that? Listen to music, podcasts, watch movies, watch the TV out the corner of my eye at the gym. My days and nights are filled with sounds and voices and stories and noises of all kinds. Now, this is not a bad thing, in my opinion. However, when there is no time left for quiet, no time left to reflect, no time to process and plan and dream and think, havoc will ensue. A rumbling sense of dread and then panic starts, fueled by the inability to get off the merry-go-round and have any down time at all. Like lack of sleep, this is not healthy. I will pay myself back for all the hours and hours of time I spend engaged each day with a few minutes of quiet meditation, reflection and soul searching each day. Every day. I had the time to do that once. I can find it again.
Forgiveness.I have gone through some pretty heavy changes in my life over the last two years. I have made some life-changing decisions, ones that affected not only me but those I love and care about very much. I have said some things that I probably should not have said. I have done (or not done) some things that I probably would do differently if I had it to do over again. I cannot go back and change the past. I cannot undo things. I cannot unsay things I’ve said. I cannot second guess major decisions that were made the best way I knew how to make them at the time with the information, resources, and energy I had. I can, however, forgive myself. I must start there. If I can’t forgive myself, how can I possibly hope to forgive others? I will treat myself better as 2015 starts by letting myself experience forgiveness.
Creativity. I enjoy writing. I enjoy putting thoughts on the page. Always have and probably always will. I have been writing stories and essays and other short works since I was in grade school. I have been blogging since 2007. I will, in 2015, let myself enjoy creativity in any way it presents itself to me. I will try very hard not to be stilted in the way I see the world or the way I convey thoughts, feelings and ideas to others. I will take that next step in the creative process when it presents itself to me.
Relationship. I have let some of my most positive relationships go in the last two years. Whether this is from guilt or fear or shame or for some other reason, I don’t entirely know. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is being in relationship. I have come to see and feel, once again, that this means being in relationship with God, with my family and friends, and with special people who give my life profound meaning and purpose. I have already started to re-gift myself with the wonderful sense of connection and relationship this year, and I want very much to continue that and expand on it in wonderful ways in 2015. As one of my friends told me this past year, we were not made to be alone. We are happiest when we are in communion with others. I am starting to understand that again, and it feels nice indeed.
Spirituality. As I have stated here before, this is not meant to be a religious blog. I do not want to force my views on anyone, and I do not want to proselytize. However, one of the things that I need to restore in my life is my faith. I have thought long and hard about how my grandmothers, my father and mother and others who helped form me into the person I am today leaned on their faith very heavily as they weathered life’s storms during their lifetimes. It is hard to convince myself that it is reasonable to pick and choose which parts of their examples I will follow, divorced from the whole. Spirituality is a gift, no doubt, and it is something that as I get older I see is more necessary to my happiness and stability than I ever thought it was in my youth.
Gratitude. How can we go through life not being thankful? How can we start each day without being thankful for breath, for sight, for the abilities we have? It is easy to think that we are self sufficient and that we have it all figured out. That we need nothing and no one to make it in this world. I will concentrate on restoring active gratitude to my daily life this coming year.
Generosity. This follows naturally after gratitude, don’t you think? When one is thankful for life and all that it gives, it is almost impossible not to share some of that joy with others. That is why I love the Christmas season so much. I love giving gifts and thinking about what would make someone else happy. I have an abundance of riches and really don’t need anything of import, materially, and so it is a lot of fun to share! I will look for ways to be more generous to others this coming year, with my time, my resources and my attention.
Play. I’m already doing a pretty good job with this one, but I could improve, as I guess we all could. Watching my grandchildren is the best prescription in the world for me personally in this area. Little children know how to play! They know how to take whatever is at hand and use their imagination to make it magical. The know how to dream. They know how to throw themselves about with abandon. They know that if they want to be a princess or a super hero that they can do it! All of us adults could certainly use a refresher in how to play.
Exploration. It is easy for us to fall into our own easy, or at least tolerable ruts on a day-to-day basis. We get into a routine, a prescribed schedule and we get stuck there. Again, that’s not all bad, especially if we enjoy very much what we do and how we spend our time. However, I discovered when I was on my seven thousand mile driving trip around the United States that the ability to literally get off the beaten path and explore was the most invigorating thing in the world. To see things one has never seen, to learn new things, to meet new people, all are exciting and life-renewing. In 2015, I intend to continue exploring, visiting, traveling and getting outside my comfort zone. I am going to give myself the gift of peregrination, and restore the sense of wonder that comes with it.
So, there you have a long list of things that I want to restore in my life, or at least fine-tune and experience in deeper ways in 2015.
What do you want to give back to yourself, to restore in your life in the coming year? It will take a conscious effort, it will take work, and it will require a promise to yourself that you will see it through.
I challenge you to make your own list.
Happy New Year to all of you, dear readers. I hope that this one is the best yet for you and yours.